The Christmas shopping season has officially begun. With the current economic downturn, stores are working overtime to get you to spend your hard earned dollars in their stores. There will surely be some good deals, but in order to take advantage of these deals and save money, you need to do it the right way. These tips can help you find some affordable gifts for your friends and family, spot the best deals, find some new places to shop for savings, and most importantly, create a budget that you won’t blow.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping Tips
Make a budget. The quickest way to get into financial trouble is to spend more money than you can afford – that’s why you should always do Christmas on a budget. When you are making you Christmas shopping lists, first determine how much money you can afford to spend (and be sure to add a little extra for those people you may have left off your list!). If you can’t afford it, don’t spend it. Here are some affordable Christmas gift ideas, with gifts under $10, under $25, and military gift ideas.
Shop with a plan. Get organized and shop for specific items; don’t just buy something because it is discounted 50%. Use your budget to construct a shopping plan that will get you to the stores you need to visit to get the best deals.
Get there early. If you are looking for exceptional deals, get to the stores early – especially if the advertisement announces limited quantities.
Know the limitations of the deals. Most stores this time of year will advertise a few loss leaders to get customers into their stores. Read the fine print – many stores only offer these items in limited quantities. The theory is that if you are already in the store, you will spend your money on something else.
Shop online. Shopping online is a great way to avoid the crowds and save money at the same time. That’s a winning combination in my book! Here are a few things to look out for when shopping online:
- Some stores may offer a few deals only at their brick and mortar stores in order to get customers through the doors. If you set foot in the store you are likely to spend more money than if you only buy online.
- Take advantage of online savings through programs like Ebates, MyPoints and Upromise.
- Find online deals through sites like slickdeals, Ben’s Bargains, and Fatwallet.
- Shop with online discounters such as Amazon, Buy.com, and Tiger Direct.
Consider gift cards. I know a lot of people don’t like to give gift cards and gift certificates because they can be impersonal and there is always the chance that if the store folds, the cards will be worthless. But there are several ways to save money on gift cards, which can make them a more attractive gift option. Sending gift cards is a good way to avoid high shipping costs and can be a great gift for college students, people just starting out in a new home, or people who are difficult to shop for.
Use your rewards credit cards. If you plan to pay your credit card off in full, then take advantage of cash back rewards cards and put some of that money back in your pocket. If you aren’t sure you can pay it off in full, then be sure to pay cash or don’t spend it.
The holiday season is a great time of year, but that doesn’t mean you should go broke buying gifts for your friends and family. Spend some time planning before you go shopping and only spend what you can afford to spend. That way you won’t get hit by any nasty surprises when the credit card bills come in the mailbox in January.